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Gathering the Jars

The wife of a man from the company of the prophets cried out to Elisha, “Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that he revered the Lord. But now his creditor is coming to take my two boys as his slaves.”

Elisha replied to her, “How can I help you? Tell me, what do you have in your house?”

“Your servant has nothing there at all,” she said, “except a little oil.”

Elisha said, “Go around and ask all your neighbors for empty jars. Don’t ask for just a few. Then go inside and shut the door behind you and your sons. Pour oil into all the jars, and as each is filled, put it to one side.”

She left him and afterward shut the door behind her and her sons. They brought the jars to her and she kept pouring. When all the jars were full, she said to her son, “Bring me another one.” But he replied, “There is not a jar left.” Then the oil stopped flowing. She went and told the man of God, and he said, “Go, sell the oil and pay your debts. You and your sons can live on what is left.” --2 Kings 4:1-7

Sometimes in life, you find yourself in the middle of a mess that is not of your own making.

The widow in this story was left penniless by a husband who, although apparently a godly man, accumulated considerable debt prior to his death. Not only was she now bereaved of her husband and the father of her two children, she was also caught in the trap of creditors who were literally demanding her flesh and blood in payment. She turned to God for help, in the person of His prophet Elisha, and then the marvelous miracle we see in this passage begins to unfold.

Early in our married life, my husband and I faced a burdensome dilemma which seemed to have no solution. We had two toddlers and were struggling to make ends meet, when Walter was offered a job that promised a more stable career and better pay. The problem was that this new job was 10 miles from our apartment in one direction, while my job was 20 miles in the exact opposite direction. And we had one car. And kids that had to get to the babysitter.

Walter asked for a few days before giving his answer, and we laid the transportation problem before the Lord. We both felt impressed that we should just leave it with Him and not talk to anyone else about our need. The following Sunday, we arrived at church and were met in the hallway by a young couple we knew well. They informed us that they had just purchased a new car, and that they did not financially need the trade-in value of their old car. “We’re not sure why, but we both felt very specifically that we are supposed to give our old car to you!” Walter and I were stunned and speechless. The car was a little Nissan in perfect condition and with low mileage. We accepted the gift with deep humility and gratitude and drove that car for many years; in our family it was always called “God’s car”!

I remembered our miracle as I read this wonderful little story and the lessons that it teaches.

The phrase “Shut the door behind” is used twice in this passage. This was a thing that was to be between the woman, her sons, and their God. It was not to be witnessed by the whole neighborhood, nor used to supply the needs of the whole neighborhood. Some miracles are meant to be on display for the world to see; others are meant to be a personal love letter for you and your family. These two boys were about to witness the hand of God intimately meeting them in their own kitchen, as He filled up the sadness and emptiness of their bereaved home and hearts through His demonstration of abundance. I’m sure it was an experience they would never forget…just as we and our children will never forget “God’s car!”

Elisha told the woman to go ask all her neighbors for empty jars, and he said, Don’t ask for just a few! The oil kept pouring out and pouring out until every jar was filled…and then it stopped flowing. What if she had obtained a thousand jars? Then the oil would have filled a thousand jars! God provided the miracle; but widow had to provide the preparation and the expectation. According to her expectation, so it was done. Did she wish afterwards that she had had more faith and asked for more jars? Or was her house overflowing with jars because of the abundance of her faith? The story doesn’t tell us; however, I think we can presume that she prepared for great things…because the provision that resulted was large enough to not only pay off her debts but also to provide ongoing income.

There are many ways that we, too, can “gather the jars” of expectation and prepare by faith for the work of God in our lives.

Giving our tithes faithfully…gathering the jars.

Helping someone who is in need, even though resources might be slim…gathering the jars.

Giving thanks and praise to God even when the way looks dark, and the obstacles are many…gathering the jars.

Proclaiming God’s faithfulness to our children and grandchildren, even in times of struggle…gathering the jars.

Persevering by seeking God faithfully through His Word and prayer…gathering the jars.

Lord, give us the grace and the vision to have many “jars” ready for You to fill!

“[God] does not give because He is bound to do so or because someone has asked and begged Him to give. He gives because He is moved by His own goodness. He is a Lord who is glad to give and whose love and delight is in giving…since this is God’s disposition toward the world, who would now despair? This love is too sublime; I cannot do justice to it.”

–Martin Luther


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